How Not to Stimulate the Economy

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The Wall Street Journal reports that there’s been a sudden outbreak of Christmas cheer on Capitol Hill, and the chances of a government shutdown on Friday are now almost nil. There’s also — maybe — been an outbreak of remarkable good sense. The biggest obstacle in the way of a deal has been figuring out how to offset the cost of an extension of the payroll tax cut, and the Journal reports that several new possibilities are now under consideration, including this one:

Another option is for the measure to be only partly offset by revenues or spending cuts elsewhere—an approach that Democrats and the White House have said they could support.

Well huzzah. The whole point of the payroll tax cut is that it’s supposed to be a short-term economic stimulus, and the best way to accomplish that is not to pay for it at all. If you cut taxes one place and raise them another, that doesn’t have much net effect. Likewise, if you give people more money to spend but then offset it with less government spending, that doesn’t have much net effect either. If you want to stimulate the economy via fiscal policy, the best way to do it is via straight-up deficit spending.

Unfortunately, the Journal says that lawmakers are only considering a plan to “partly” offset the payroll tax cut with other revenues or spending cuts. Too bad. That’s better than nothing, but better still would be to forget about offsetting it at all and just pass the damn thing.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate